Facebook: Rainbow Tribe (c21rainbowtribe)
Our workshop is called The Rainbow Tribe: Affectionate Movement* and the ambition is that it will continue to allow participants to benefit from re-addressing power relationships in relation to issues of identity politics: how we collaboratively communicate; trust building; understanding different levels of energy; self-care in terms of radical softness; leadership. The workshop was initiated by the exclusively online enquiry of what the term “affectionate movement” has the potential to be within existing cultural, media and politically driven systems and movements, as a type of capital and empowerment through getting to know and caring about each other.
Josephine Baker, dancer and entertainer, possibly the first Black superstar, called her 12 showcase children, adopted from the four corners of the world, The Rainbow Tribe. Baker, a freedom fighter with fairytale aspirations, through the Rainbow Tribe, initiated a social experiment performed publicly, mixing celebrity spectacle with political determination. Baker’s family experiment was her simple, flawed, solution to a global problem – how to transcend race.
Taking inspiration from Bakers experiment, we began our inquiry by setting up a secret facebook group. Here 12 artists, from different regions, backgrounds, and practices, came together to form a tribe. Working remotely, and using this online space to gather, we began to investigate the possibilities for inclusivity, understandings of negotiation and how different bodies can be together, in virtual space.
Over the months of August – October, the Rainbow Tribe has participated to seek freedom: of expression, of speech, and to actively participate as community, creating content such as self image as protest and the role of recording and preserving our own histories.
Taking our second inquiry, image as self protest, to the public sphere, we uploaded and shared our collective images on our Instagram and facebook pages. Our self-protest images, are individually distinctive, strong, registering a unique agency and collectively. These can be viewed here on the Rainbow Tribe social media platforms.
Pragmatically, The Rainbow Tribe requires further institutional support and resources in order that ambitions might be furthered, we need training and leadership strategies, time to develop complex understandings of media mechanisms, a coming together to reveal oppressions in a more hopeful, challenging and coherent manner and in turn implementation of strategies. Working without these vital skills over the period June to now, with ambitions that slowly eroded due to navigating unprecedented life changes, personally and politically, and leadership consequently breaking down, has offered an experience of “affection” throughout the tribe, where understanding, empathy, care and honesty has been expressed through our openness to each other. As artists, this can often be difficult to navigate, and many of us hide our realities in order to progress and create a vision of “success”
Our success is that we’ve created a supportive dedicated space in our secret Facebook group where each of us has contributed something to one another, in virtual space, in our tribe community. Our original social media action (a 72 hour campaign) didn’t eventuate but we continue to encourage interaction, support and dialogue: please follow The Rainbow Tribe on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and invite your friends too, an anticipation of subsequent iterations of the project.
One of our tribe wrote “I think it is very valuable to explore these things as artists, especially considering how the far right are utilising social media to gain mainstream political power. In light of Trump raising $250 million through facebook, and then pumping 90 million back into a targeted digital campaign, it’s quite important to think how we also stand on these platforms. Can we ‘jam’ their algorithms? Can we grow an effective alternative?”
We’ve got much work to do which can only be achieved by grouping together, learning from each other, in this effort to dismantle or at the very least destabilise these paralysing pillars of systemic oppression stemming from an outdated ingrained capitalistic imposition. Will you join in and share with Affection?
BY LANGSTON HUGHES
I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.
*Affectionate Movement is a term coined and used in a paper for an anthology on gender construction, published by Cambridge Scholars Press to describe an approach to exploring shifts in freedom, agency, ethics, care, and being in community. See below for the full text.
Sets and Spectacles, A Performance Proposal from a forthcoming collection of essays ‘PoMoGaze: New Views on Female and Trans* Masculinities and other Queer Crossings’ eds. Dr Nina Kane and Jude Woods, Cambridge Scholars Publishing
“Watching does not substitute for but enables doing.”
This text is framed as a proposal. It can be read as a proposal for solo performance, enacted by me, and also a call out, for wider participation. It can stand as a proposal for a shifting theatre set on a global stage, or as a proposal for textual expansion, taking the rainbow as a universal symbol of hope, acceptance and freedom and combining these elements to create what I like to call affectionate movement.
The proposal format emphasises two themes that define my practice, those of value and those of worth. The very nature of creative exposure, making ourselves open and positioning our vulnerability publicly, puts an emphasis on our sense of value and worth. Creative subjects are marginialised within the UK curriculum (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/17/arts-and-culture-systematically-removed-from-uk-education-system). There are cuts to public funding of the arts. Cultural capital, however, is unequivocal. Experimentation that derives from The Rainbow Tribe project probes exchange values and ethical worth. The Rainbow Tribe project researches civil and human rights set amidst a backdrop of manufactured or mass identity masked under broad, hierarchical surveillance systems.
“When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of second-hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true, of the lived experience; a resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. And there is a panic-stricken production of the real and the referential, above and parallel to the panic of material production.”
“In order to become not just a political subject, via the suffrage with political rights, but a Subject, the at least partial author of oneself, through the creation of both a personage and an aesthetic practice that can affirm and enunciate each woman’s singularity, women needed a means to articulate a history of the body – the body as a space of phantasy, of pleasure, of anguish, the locus of loss, of memory and objectless desire.”
“Write your self. Your body must be heard.”
The Rainbow Tribe is a set, a scene, located in a bordered space. The Rainbow Tribe frees from the enclosure, impervious to damage.
The Rainbow Tribe is an appropriated title, originally the name bestowed by Josephine Baker on her assemblage of children, her showcase family cum social experiment, who were adopted between 1954 and 1965 from the four corners of the world: Korea, Japan, Finland, Columbia, France, Venenzuela and the Ivory Coast.
“There were ten boys and two girls. Josephine reasoned, “It’s so much more important for men to get along than women.”
The Rainbow Tribe offers a re-imagining of a real life fiction projected on and from the career and life of Josephine Baker, born St. Louis in 1906. This re-imagining mirrors Josephine Baker’s talent for portraying her life as a fairytale. Baker’s enigmatic presentation also included misleading accounts of her patrilineage and religious affiliation. These emotional and spiritual struggles, with which I empathise, are interesting to think about in comparison with current media trends where our lives appear to mirror marketing affectations.
The Rainbow Tribe, Chorus Line responds to public and private interfaces, to dual realities, and relies on movement. The movements are revealed through individual readings and annotations of this text: interpretation, consultation, improvisation, negotiation and collective realisation. A film of each rehearsal that publicly interprets this text will be made as documentary evidence for The Rainbow Tribe’s archive and will be used as a supplementary document to this text in preparation for future performances of The Rainbow Tribe Chorus Line. Each performance is not an isolated spectacle but acts in communion over time, contributing to the “evolution of imperial history”.
Position: Shadowing Josephine
Shadowing Josephine is a surefooted but lightly choreographed work set to Cab Calloway’s popular Cotton Club track “Pickin’ up the Cabbage”. Shadowing Josephine recognizes the indebtedness owed to Josephine Baker, the first widely celebrated, independent black celebrity who emerged from colonial and segregation contexts.
Shadowing Josephine is positioned within the context of The Art Party Conference, where it premiered. My performance of Shadowing Josephine thoroughly encapsulates my initial steps: it is tentative, nervous, naïve, bashful and celebratory. Josephine’s humour, articulated through her sinuous body; lithe and comely one minute, flailing legs and arms set akimbo the next, serves to remind us of our fallibility and egotism. It would be wonderful to work more towards emulating and celebrating that enchanting position, the core of Josephine Baker’s repertoire.
The Art Party Conference, held at Scarborough Spa on the 23rd November 2013, was an event that hoped to influence policy makers to listen and think again. The Art Party Conference was not aligned to any political party but an opportunity to celebrate art and artists and act as a forum for debating the future of the arts in today’s climate of spending cuts and changes to the education system. Despite artist Bob and Roberta Smith’s efforts, whose artwork The Art Party is, arts education remains a contested subject. Today the arts’ cultural significance and economic contribution is undermined.
“The creativity of the democratic is increasingly discouraged by the progress of bureaucracy, coupled with the aggressive proliferation of an international mass culture. Political creativity is being reduced to the mere delegation of decision and power. The imposition of an international cultural and economic dictatorship by the constantly expanding combines leads to a loss of articulation, learning and the quality of verbal expression.”
The choreography of Shadowing Josephine came about after I sought directional assistance from Barbara Benson Smith MBE, my dance teacher from around the age of three or four years old. The Benson Stage Academy in Scarborough is the centre for the work Miss Barbara undertakes within the local community as well as for the NSPCC. One of Miss Barbara’s protégées, Caron also helped work on the choreography.
Shadowing Josephine measures physicality as a visual language. How do we read bodies and how is this body to be read? Performing the body, initiated through Shadowing Josephine is a language, a tool to articulate a series of ideas: how outrage and prejudices can be performed; perceptions of the savage and barbaric heathens; tribal nuances and thinking about the Paris of the 1920’s as a site of inequality: the spate of negrophilia there; how a change of circumstances for women was reinforced by the war; cultural diversity and tolerance; exoticism and anti-colonial, therefore, transgressive behaviours.
“Today it is unlikely that a nude dancer would be a feminist idol, but in Paris in the 1920s her name meant freedom. French women were in revolt. During the war many of them had taken men’s jobs in industry or had managed offices or farms. They had grown accustomed to a measure of freedom and wanted to keep it. Yet, because they were still denied the right to vote, the right to enter the professions or politics, to open a bank account or to buy contraception, real freedom was still out of reach. So, pitched against staggering odds, la femme française fell back on her sexuality, using it as her prime weapon in her battle for liberté and égalite, to say nothing of her fraternité.”
Bean, Director of ]performance s p a c e [ invited me to perform Shadowing Josephine in the space at Enclave, Deptford, as a durational work at one of their SOS events. At the time, my intention was that I would perform it as a 3 minute routine. Noting the relationship between space and content, Bean described the space at Enclave as similar to a shop window and suggested it would benefit from the associated marketplace context. For this reason Bean also suggested extending the performance through repeating the routine to the point of exhaustion. What was initially offered as a single slot at one of ]performance s p a c e [ SOS events became a paid residency over the course of two months, between October and December 2014.
“Blacks and whites shared the same dance-floor, but little else. Images of blacks and whites together in that era show them dancing, dancing and only dancing.” 
Interrogations & Interrelations: Iterations of the Rainbow Tribe was held between 10 am on 24th October 2014 and 10am on 27th October 2014. Shadowing Josephine was performed at a scheduled time each day. The night time offered the opportunity to expand thinking about the performance and the context in which I was performing it. This was the first time I began to perform as totem: painting onto my skin with out of date make up; covering my body with graphite, dancing as a pencil. I performed Shadowing Josephine with such urgency and exactitude as to unintentionally but violently carve into my body from debris on the floor and bruise and tear my flesh as a result of the concrete flooring. This first Occupation invited the audience to participate in the process through active exchange. Via social media I put out a request for items to sustain us. The aim was that together we might develop the work through a shared dialogue of documentation, verbal and visual exchange.
Josephine Baker was a mistress of transformation; she was impulsive and decisive, innocent and naïve. With delight, courage and conviction, Josephine Baker had the determination to shoulder longevity, and was equipped with an unapologetic quest for equality on her own terms. She proudly marched with the French emblems of liberty, equality and fraternity positioning herself squarely, although at times marked down by her gender, as at the very least supporting cast to the Civil Rights movement and a vital component within the machinations of the French Resistance.
“How are we to read the moment of Josephine Baker’s emergence as an internationally acclaimed musical star in 1925 within the context of the peculiarly painful convergence of the colonialist and a masculine eroticizing gaze at the spectacularised black female body?”
How are the boundaries being blurred between the exhibited female body and the spectator within a simulated culture and is there a distinguishable common aim?
“Hold still, we’re going to do your portrait, so that you can begin looking like it right away.”
Are societal and cultural mores perpetuating or determining racial and gender stereotyping?
“In one another we will never be lacking.”
I have a personal interest in Josephine Baker as a dislocated self-styled woman longing to make sense of and subvert the constructs under which she was born. Josephine Baker created a new way of operating in space. Time notwithstanding, her obstacles remain our obstacles. In beginning to understand the context of her triumphs, the reader and I, become supporting cast in The Rainbow Tribe.
The Rainbow Tribe challenges perceptions of mass identity exemplified by a celebrity culture nurtured by a capitalistic system ingrained, in part, by the bombardment of imagery choreographed by paternalistic economies. Gender and race need not be sensationalised anymore, but our bodies must be celebrated and honoured.
The Rainbow Tribe was born out of a visit to New York in 2006. There I visited The Studio Museum, Harlem and bought a collection of essays called “Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance” by Richard J. Powell and David A. Bailey. At around this time, I happened to watch “The Josephine Baker Story” directed by Brian Gibson (1991). I was enthralled at a very basic level by Josephine Baker’s spirit as a freedom fighter, her humility and her fairytale aspirations. I tattooed the back of my neck with a rainbow a couple of years later. This acts to remind me of her powerful story. This permanent rainbow on my skin is also emblematic of a barcode, a brand.
“Abjection traces the silhouette of society on the unsteady edges of the self; it simultaneously imperils social order with the force of delirium and disintegration.”
Communion is performed, by me, as an excerpt, as is Shadowing Josephine. Both of these performances shoulder and ritualise colonialist value systems.
Communion requires a central platform, covered with cloth, on which I can lie. A person, dressed in a white, hooded disposable decorators boilers suit, irons my hair, which goes from a full afro to flat (ish): the wiry texture, drier, atonal, crisp, evidence that it has withstood pressure. I ritualistically brush my hair out at the beginning of the performance. I have performed it both clothed and unclothed; the latter having significant impact in it’s depiction of vulnerability.
The performance resonates with the sacrificial: it comments as a rite of passage in the respect of straightening hair. It is performed as a vignette. The only slight movements visible are the ironing and the rise and fall of my breath.
Communion, at it’s core speaks of imposed vanity; the ritual of ‘preening’ and ‘fixing’ hair. Looking from a much broader framework, however, the performance questions silent gestures: of organized religion; the ironing out or smoothing over of cultural difference and activities performed privately for the benefit of visibly conforming to a misplaced Western construct.
“The scene, one is invited to conclude, is a space of freedom from convention and a space one can take a distance from in order to put oneself outside the realm of rules and determinations rather than overwhelmed, swept over, incapacitated or drowned.”
The two durational performances at ]performance s p a c e [ (Interrogations & Interrelations: Iterations of the Rainbow Tribe and Sets and Spectacles) saw spectacle interrupted by live scheduled performances. The first Occupation of the space revealed the discordant and emotional upheaval that comes from inviting audience into the space of performance. Expectation was tacitly alert in both parties especially after I had exhausted myself through the demands of finishing a two hour-long performance of Shadowing Josephine. When I came to de-robe and wash myself among the audience, there was an immediate desire for reflective exchange by the audience but my replies were enfeebled.
The second Occupation, a month or so later, was of a longer duration and during the run-up I was sensitive to this previous disturbance. ]performance s p a c e [ and I installed a curtain and mirror (the mirror was taken out of the mock Baroque gilded frame and hung opposite on the wall behind me) creating a container that served to separate viewer from the live art making cubicle. The viewer could look through the framed hole in the curtain, from a sort of antechamber space, to see themselves reflected in the mirror placed behind me and subsequently be instrumental to and complicit in the scene.
“Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves and each other.”
Between Iterations of the Rainbow Tribe and Sets and Spectacles, I also began the Conway Cohort residency, mentored by Dr Luke Dixon and Jane Turner at Conway Hall. The idea to choreograph the concept of communion and exchange reflects, through dialogue and movement, ideas relating to the overall project in terms of freedom, justice, ethics and civil rights. The as yet still unresolved Rainbow Tribe, Chorus Line saw its serendipitous inception at Conway Hall, home to The Ethical Society and the Ethical Society’s collection, which is the largest and most comprehensive Humanist Research resource of its kind in the United Kingdom. This residency allowed me to interpret, in collaboration with professional dancers, images stemming from The Rainbow Tribe research. I took a selection of these images out of context and offered them to pairs of dancers to workshop. In response we collectively created a series of movements that shaped the performance. In the first instance we performed to the music Missa Luba: Sanctus performed by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudoin. This performance revealed a bewildering, disquieting and disturbing exchange that appeared at times both dislocated and humorous.
The Rainbow Tribe is a series of positions that are unaccountable and subject to change.
“Always already a cultural sign, the body sets limits to the imaginary meanings that it occasions, but is never free of an imaginary construction. The fantasized body can never be understood in relation to the body as real; it can only be understood in relation to another culturally instituted fantasy, one which claims the place of the “literal” and the “real.”
During the first occupation at ]performance s p a c e [ and ripe for interpretation by The Rainbow Tribe Chorus Line, I began a body of watercolours. These watercolours question the gaze as an autonomous gesture with which I too am complicit. They are an attempt to anticipate my agency as spectacle and investigate the tension between power, freedom and control. As with dance, a medium that strengthen’s The Rainbow Tribe, watercolour is built on the promise of fluid experimentation; both are multi-layered, each layer acting to create a more powerful and emotive impression.
Returning to the continued research into the life and career of Josephine Baker the practice based residencies at ]performance s p a c e [ and Conway Hall allowed me to question how she, and subsequently I as her shadow, enable/d control of body and persona. In retrospect the movements I made during performances at
]performance s p a c e [ were hesitant copies of a dance, the replicated movements of memory. This understanding is notionally magnified by the very public presentation of the performances.
The second Occupation had a presence online, staged through Ustream, which was more acute and actively organized than the first. The Ustream films present evidence, demanding further investigation of the gaze and control of presentation. Do social media platforms popularize the polarization between empowerment and objectification of women and how do these platforms support, celebrate or denigrate? The Ustream films instigate further inquiry into Josephine Baker’s position as a celebrity, a commodity for public consumption, and particularly for the male eroticized gaze:
“ In the painter’s studio, under the compelling gaze of the masculine artist whose erotic scrutiny of the living woman he asked to unrobe before his hungry eyes has been the object of feminist interrogation, Josephine Baker experienced, by her own account, a coming into her own sexuality through the gaze of this other, this white man, this
“Ensuring that people can have livable lives is a political matter.”
The Rainbow Tribe is inexhaustible and liable to colourful ferocity: its pacifist ethics discredit any superficial, inorganic hierarchical stasis.
“It is important to imagine a world in which binary conceptions of gender no longer govern modes of segregation or association, and one in which violence is eliminated from state practices as well as from our intimate lives, in hetrosexual and same-sex relationships alike. And, of course, it is important to imagine a world without war.”
The Rainbow Tribe belies recognized currencies and is working alongside a cultural economy that champions a near future where identities are brazen, naked and understood as a glorious gift, where equality shares the same pedestal as tolerance and acceptance.
“Ours is an increasingly embattled society; a society in which violence, accusations of violent intentions and expectations of violent acts turn into major vehicles of individual and group self-assertion – from the top to the bottom of the social system, whether at the global, local or domestic level.”
Audiences, who found themselves at either ]performance s p a c e [ during the Occupation or at Conway Hall for one of the public sharing events, were exclusively from art, performance or dance backgrounds. Outside of these spaces, in virtual reality, audience interpretation is veiled and unknown. The live art making recorded by my phone and transmitted through Ustream was conscious of these anonymous eyes but not anticipatory.
“Valuing the ways in which we are linked together without being one, that we share certain sensibilities of moving together without needing to model or imitate someone opens up conceptions of sovereignty self-production that just might serve as a momentary realization of the future in the present.”
My body, our bodies, throughout our lifetimes require negotiations and renegotiations in space and will constantly act as catalysts for exploration:
“…the metaphor of the textualized body’ has been used to situate the body as ‘a page or material surface, possibly even a book of interfolded leaves […] ready to receive, bear, and transmit meanings, messages of signs, much like a system of writing.” 
“Perhaps Josephine Baker unexpectedly found the colonialist fantasies less damaging, more easily turned back on themselves, more amenable to being used as a springboard for her finding of her own verb; a verb in which she could speak her own singularity and experience that growth that comes form trying different things and having the space and freedom to decide who to become through work, through art, through love, through politics in which being black was found beautiful, interesting, in ways that did not compromise her fundamental humanity as a person.”
The Rainbow Tribe shuns spectacle as a vehicle for visibility or voice, favouring the transparent reciprocity of affectionate movement. The economic and social structure we operate within provides the platform for future performance, destined as a constant negotiation between past and present histories. This document relies on ethical understandings and shares the responsibility of an open and fluid structure, which is balanced and arrested before violent, homogenous repetition. The barriers encountered en route are flexible and may be used as useful opportunities from which to grow and develop. The Rainbow Tribe performance proposal utilises these accidental moments to elevate, to see, and be seen by the surroundings.
 Randy Martin, ‘Mobilizing Dance Toward a Social Logic of the Derivative.’ in Co-immunity p222
 Baudrillard, Jean., Selected Writings, p. 167
 Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Boll., Manifesto on the foundation of a “Free School for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research” 1973 in Energy Plan for the Western Man Joseph Beuys in America compiled by Carin Kuoni p. 150
 Lynn Haney, “Naked at The Feast A Biography of Josephine Baker.” (1995) p. 81
 Archer-Shaw, Petrine., Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s” p. 179
 Pollock, Griselda., Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive, (2007) p. 129
 Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa p880
 Lynn Haney, Naked at the Feast: The Biography of Josephine Baker (1995) p269
 Cheng, Anne Anlin., “Second Skin: Josephine Baker & The Modern Surface” (2011) p. 199, note 21
 Pollock, Encounters, P.126
 Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa p892
 Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa p893
 McClintock, Anne., Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest p71
 Zygmunt Bauman, Scene and Obscene Another Hotly contested Opposition in Third Text 51 Summer 2000 p6
 President Barrack Obama
 Butler, “Gender Trouble” 1990 p71
 Referring to Paul Colin Pollock, Encounters, P.128
 “Dance, politics and co-immunity” ed. Siegmund and Holscher: Burt, “The Bio politics of Modernist Dance and Suffragette Protest” p. 253
 Davis, Angela., The Meaning of Freedom p. 133
 Zygmunt Bauman, Scene and Obscene Another Hotly contested Opposition in Third Text 51 Summer 2000 p11
 Randy Martin, ‘Mobilizing Dance Toward a Social Logic of the Derivative.’ in Co-immunity p225
 Elizabeth Grosz “Volatile Bodies” (1994), (117).”
 Pollock 131?